Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Indoor activities, Sesame Street and saved.

1. The weather forecast is very wet for today. We have an at home day. The children both take morning naps, which helps a lot because it allows me to get lunch going and set up some cooking for Alec. We made savoury muffins, which he enjoyed very much as you can see from the picture.

2. We watch a few old Sesame Street songs on YouTube (Maya Angelou singing My Name) and I wallow in nostalgia at the familiar kind faces of Louis, Maria and Gordon.

3. Just as everything is unravelling, Nick walks in.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Picture book, advice and nannies.

1. I bought myself Henry's Quest as a little treat and it arrived today. It's Graham Oakley's post-apocalyptic picture book (he's best known for his Church Mice books, which depict municipal middle England in all its fussy glory). I love the vine-covered pylons and the bucolic oil refinery, and (as in all his books) the way the wry mis-matches between the text and the detailed pictures.

2. To call the NCT breastfeeding helpline -- it's nothing serious, just to get some tips on preventing wind -- but the counsellor's simple advice makes me feel a lot more confident.

3. Anna's girls persuade Alec that he wants to go to the park. The next thing I know he's standing by the door with his shoes on. Later they all give him his bath, again spit-spotting him through the process like a trio of blonde Mary Poppinses.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Deep purple, it takes a village and extra time.

1. Late night purple heliotrope as an edging plant.

2. Alec shouts 'Halp! Halp! Rescue me!' while playing firefighters in the park. People look up to see if he's OK.

3. Those evenings when Alec falls asleep really early. We always end up sitting on the sofa looking at each other and wondering what we are going to do with our time.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Granola, drinking and listening to the rain.

1. To share my early morning granola bar with Alec (he calls them mobile bars -- no-one knows why).

2. It rains in the same soft, sustained way that it did the morning Bettany was born. I nurse her on the sofa and watch the tired world drinking long and deep.

3. All the voices of the rain. It drums and patters on the jasmine and tinks and tonks in the watering can. It splats on to the paving. It gurgles and murmurs and chatters in gutters and runnels and downpipes. Later, when Bettany and I join our boys in the study Nick says 'Come up here and listen to the rain'.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

New dress, back to normal and promotions.

1. To put Bettany in a dress embroidered with Parisian scenes -- it was a gift from Nick's colleagues and he particularly commented on how much he liked it.

2. We've been unfaithful to our usual brand of washing powder -- a posh variety was on offer and I bought two large packs. It doesn't smell right. Today I emptied the last of the interloping boxes and opened a new carton of our old favourite.

3. When writing friends post messages about their e-books going cheap. I'm stuck to the sofa under a greedy Bettany and I'm gobbling down a book a day so these tip-offs are very welcome. (Here is Rosy Thornton's Ninepins for 99p, which I'm looking forward to).

Friday, July 26, 2013

No nappy, guess and supper.

1. Alec makes his first outing with no nappy on (we have to spend a bit of time allaying his concerns that his underpants might go 'pop and fly up in the sky').

2. 'Guess what's special about Alec today?' we ask our neighbours.

3. At last -- it's well after 9pm -- I get my chicken noodle soup.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Just us, strawberries and hallo ladies.

1. The small hours feeds and changes with Bettany -- she is all mine and I am all hers.

2. In the shade by Jane's new front door, the smell of wild strawberries.

3. Alec tries to chat up some big girls (they must be about nine) in the shrubbery. He needs to work on his lines, though. "That my Mummy with Bettany in the sling and that my pushchair with my drink" doesn't cut it:  they shriek with laughter and run away on their spindly gazelle legs. (I still think he was very brave to even approach them.)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Happy news, shoulders and words.

1. At toddler group one of the usuals is there with her dad, not her mum, who was heavily pregnant last time I saw her. It is good to hear another family's happy news (we've been enjoying the coverage about Baby Cambridge, too, of course).

2. To discover that I am once again strong enough to lift Alec up on to my shoulders (Bettany is in the sling and I note that he is very good and careful with his feet).

3. I overhear Alec telling my mother that he is 'enthusiastic'. The other night when I complained about his wriggling he said that he was adjusting himself.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Rescue, ice lollies and coming home.

1. To have a mother who is able to come, bringing us lunch.

2. To remember that there are a couple of ice lollies in the fridge.

3. Nick comes straight upstairs and asks 'What can I do?' I am so glad to see him -- the heat today has left us frazzled and waspish.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Morale boost, watermelons and smiler.

1. A pre-dawn snack and a good pull on my water bottle boosts my morale.

2. A box of watermelons in the supermarket, a herd of hefty green piglets.

3. I think I saw Bettany smiling -- it's hard to say for sure because she was nursing at the time, but her eyes lit up and her mouth opened.

3b. Nautical types are everywhere: It's Pirate Day down at Hastings.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bub, evidence and shortcuts.

1. There are two mothers nursing in the coffee shop.

2. They gave us Alec's nursery folder to take home -- they record things he does as evidence to show he is reaching the milestones on a government framework. It sounds terribly dry, but it's full of photos and craft. The short accounts of his doings please me very much. My favourite was from April (so well before Bettany arrived). It describes him carrying a doll round on his hip as he played, pausing from time to time to ask 'baby' if he was OK.

3. A quick and simple lunch of pasta with sauce from a jar.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Stay at home, passing the station and not needed.

1. My mother takes Alec to nursery so I don't have to take Bettany out in the midday heat.

2. As Bettany and I are passing the station on the way to collect Alec I feel a light touch on my arm. Nick has caught the early train.

3. To sink into bed between two sleeping children. I realise that no-one needs me and I relax -- properly -- for the first time in I don't know how long.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Top of the milk, sling and budding engineer.

1. Fishing the cream off the top of the milk bottle and giving it to Alec.

2. To put a fractious Bettany in the sling and get on with our day.

3. Aunty Louise brings Alec a beautiful orange diesel locomotive that opens to reveal its engine. I can see Alec spending a lot of time on repairs.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

First cuppa, jasmine and him indoors.

1. My father brings me a cup of tea in bed.

2. She talks about the scent of her jasmine, 'only in the evening, once it's got dark'. I've been wondering about the one by our back door, and hoping that it's on its way.

3. Coming home and finding a husband already there.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Worth her weight in gold, not children and the bigger boys.

1. I don't think our cleaning lady realises how close I came to hugging her when she offers to clear up the cat and fox poo in our front garden. 'I have a dog and a cat, it no problem for me,' she says modestly.

2. I get chatting with a nanny at toddler group -- it turns out she keeps a daily webcomic called Miriam's Daily Adventures. Once in a while it's good to be able to talk about something other than small children.

3. There are always two bigger boys who manage to drive their ride-ons -- a pink lawn-mower and a green motorbike -- out of the approved space (they are not always the same boys, but there are always two of them). They park next to the jigsaw table and start work on a couple of puzzles. While they are engaged a smaller boy makes off with the motorbike. One of the big boys notices, drops his puzzle and puts his bottom firmly on the pink lawn-mower. The other boy notices, too. There is consternation, then negotiation, which concludes with them riding off together on the lawn-mower.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

News, heckle and her eyes.

1. During my morning flick through Facebook I spot news of a parade, starting in an hour at the end of our road.

2. Five boys from the top end of the primary school race from the swings to the see-saw. One of them spots a girl walking past. She is wearing the short dress that is the uniform of one of the town's grammar schools and is head-and-shoulders taller than him. 'Heather! Heather! Do you want some Toxic Waste?' (Toxic Waste is a sweet sold in small plastic cannisters).
'No thanks,' she says coolly.
He grins at his friends, perhaps to remind them that faint heart never won fair maiden, and then jumps on the see-saw.

3. The way Alec leans round to look at Bettany's face while she is feeding. 'I want to see her eyes,' he explains.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Congratulations, all the cakes and escalation.

1. Tim and Rachel come to congratulate Alec on his new big brother status (and to admire Bettany).

2. To put out all the cakes -- a cake-stand should always be crowded.
 3. Bettany busts her nappy. It drips off Nick's trouser and makes a puddle on the floor that flows out until it reaches his slipper. Then nosey Alec puts his hand in it: 'What dat?'. The only good thing about this sort of thing is that an escalating crisis makes a better story.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Fairyland, glass and chocolate.

Thought you might like some pictures...

1. The endless hours of breastfeeding give me time to devour one of my birthday books, the charming, Oz-like fairyland novel The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

2. "Shall I fill your water glass?"

3. I only really wanted a couple of squares of bitter chocolate.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Better hour, seedlings and small treasure.

1. To wake again at a more reasonable hour feeling much better.

2. Nasturtium seedlings in surprising places.

3. When tidying to find a small treasure of Alec's and to put it safe in his cabinet of curiosities.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Baby-wearing, no worries and clean-up.

1. Bettany stowed in her sling is so convenient that we forget she is there. As Alec is at nursery for the afternoon, we call our drink and stroll a date.

2. To walk into a china shop without worrying about an unruly toddler.

3. To wipe Alec's dirty face clean (it takes several goes).

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Take-over, latch and small task.

How do people feel about Google+? Blogger has been suggesting strongly that I could be making better use of it to connect with you. Is anyone on it? I'm here if you want to add 3BT to your stream.

1. "I'll do that," says Nick when I tell him we need to shop for a new printer.

2. Bettany and I are doing a bit of skin-to-skin (it's supposed to promote a good latch). I look down at her face as she goes on to the breast and her expression reminds me of a greedy old lady anticipating a cream cake.

3. To remember a quick, easy and satisfying gardening job that needs doing: tying up the tomatoes and picking off the side shoots.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Signing off, attention and a bit girly.

1. The midwives sign me off -- it's a happy occasion and a sad occasion. They tell me that Bettany is beautiful and that I was built to give birth.

1. You don't half get a lot of attention if you walk down the street with a small baby. Everyone smiles at you.

2. 'Sorry,' says the butcher's boy, who has been actually cooing over Bettany, 'They make me go a bit girly.'

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Visitors, bash and beans.

1. Fenella visits and brings (quite apart from lunch) her beautiful solemn-eyed five-month-old daughter.

2. A gleeful Alec gets an orgy of (permitted) destruction. He and Nick are crushing a bagful of meringues for Eton Mess.

3. Popping broad beans out of their skins.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Our time, outside and sprawled.

1. Bettany is asleep when Alec wakes up. We have a good long uninterrupted bub and then some rough-housing on the bed. He has suddenly become large and solid: his fingers in particular are reassuringly sturdy compared to Bettany's, which I find terrifyingly small.

2. 'Can you hear what's going on outside?' asks my father putting his head into the cool, quiet sitting room where I am sitting under a milk-full Bettany. Alec, Rosey and the cousins are shouting about tigers and shrieking with laughter as they chase each other across the lawn. When Alec comes in he is hot and flushed and confident.

3. Bettany sprawled across her Granny's knee.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Family day, harvest and resemblance.

1. We have the day to ourselves.

2. To pick and eat the first of our strawberries (it tastes very good).

3. Watching an episode of Father Ted, it occurs to me that some of Bettany's newborn expressions look like Father Dougal. I'm not sure that I didn't make the same comparison when Alec was tiny.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Wild flowers, to the country and shady.

1. We go up to the hospital to get Bettany's hearing screened. Around the car parks there are banks of  grasses and wild flowers. I spot clover, vetch and yellow rattle, as well as those giant dandelion clocks that look like geodesic domes.

2. To escape for the rest of the day: Rosey, Bettany at I head out to the country for lunch and cake at a cafe I've heard  good things about -- Olive Stores on Brenchley's pretty High Street. The food is delicious, the atmosphere is chilled and it feels very much as if we're on holiday.

3. A day when it's hot enough to sit in the shade. Also, I feel strong enough to walk all round the lake at Dunorlan Park.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Bundle, confident and granny magnet.

1. Going back to sleep with Bettany on my chest.

2. Being fixed up by the chiropractor; particularly having my pelvis adjusted. Afterwards I feel less frightened  of the outside world and much steadier on my feet.

3. Our six-day girl draws lots of comments on the bus. Two elderly ladies express surprise that I'm out and about already: 'The kept us in hospital for two weeks.'

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Low tech, concealment and clean bed.

1. Now we have no internet at all. Conversation, DVD-watching and novel-reading break out.

2. Clearing away the evidence of clandestine cake-eating before Alec gets home.

3. Discovering that our cleaning lady has put new linen on the bed.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Mystery box, sleeping in the afternoon and silence.

1. The mysterious box is a bouquet of pink baby clothes bundled up like roses, an enchanting gift from Tim and Rachel.

2. Everyone takes a two-hour nap.

3. The moment when the builders finally stop using power tools on the house opposite.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Biscuits, ices and aunt.

1. Alec asks for a second biscuit 'for my other hand'. A few minutes later he returns for a third 'for Daddy'.

3. At the park there is a pink 'stop me and buy one' ice cream tricycle.

3. The opportunity to boss an aunt around for the best part of a day.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Breakfast, lap time and rebellion

1. Sneaking downstairs at 6am when everyone is asleep and eating a huge breakfast.

2. "Can I sit on your lap?" asks Alec. For the first time in weeks I can answer "Yes!" Of all the pregnancy niggles, not having a lap made me saddest.

3. "I don't want to see the cricket - it too crickety!" Alec is having a difficult morning.

4. "I'm not going to do the washing up," says Nick. "I'm on paternity leave."

Lolly, rabbits and fairy festival.

1. As we walk, the grinding, crunching sound of Bettany working on a chalky double lolly. 2. Midsummer afternoon on the common -- rabbits gr...